-- Guy Boucher deflected the notion of his Tampa Bay Lightning
needing to rely on Vincent Lecavalier
, Martin St. Louis
and Steven Stamkos
if they were to avoid elimination from the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But because the Lightning's Big Three played big in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, there will be a Game 7 on Friday night.
Lecavalier, St. Louis and Stamkos combined for 3 goals and 8 points to help the Lightning to a wild 5-4 victory at St. Pete Times Forum Wednesday night to even this series at three wins apiece.
"I was expecting a big game from those guys," Boucher said. "I disagree that they didn't have big games in the last games. There's a lot more in the game than scoring goals and having points. They had very good games before; it just wasn't going in for some of them.
"They got what they deserved."
Boston rallied twice to cut the lead to one goal in the third period, but even a hat trick from David Krejci
-- the first in a postseason game for the franchise since Cam Neely had one in 1991 -- wasn't enough for the Bruins to close out the Lightning.
Game 7 will be Friday night at TD Garden in Boston – the first time a conference final has gone to the limit since 2006. This will be the second seven-game series of this postseason for both teams -- Boston defeated Montreal at TD Garden in the first round and Tampa Bay knocked out the Penguins at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh in their opening series, capping a comeback from a 3-1 deficit.
"We knew it was going to be a long series," St. Louis said. "It comes down to one game. Luckily, and fortunately, all our team has been through a Game 7. Some of us have played more (than one), but everyone has had that experience. We know what to expect. The fourth win is always the toughest one to get, and both teams are going to battle hard to get it."
Tampa Bay's big trio had combined for only 1 goal and 3 points in the previous three games, but they had a huge impact on this one from the start.
Lecavalier won a faceoff back to Teddy Purcell
for a goal 36 into the opening period. Purcell, who is the sixth member of what Boucher deemed a "Big Six" along with the top trio, Simon Gagne and Ryan Malone
, had a pair of goals and now has a team-leading five in the series.
Purcell shifted from the outside of the right circle to the top of it after Krejci was kicked out and Chris Kelly
moved in to face Lecavalier.
"I saw it wasn't their first centermen," Lecavalier said. "He got kicked off and [Kelly] coming in as a lefty, I knew if I won it, it would go between my legs. I just gave him a little wink and told him to move over. I got lucky and it ended up going right on his stick."
After Boston took a 2-1 lead by dominating the rest of the first period, St. Louis tied the score with the first of three power-play goals in less than 13 minutes for the Lightning. He found a loose puck after Boston goalie Tim Thomas
stopped two shots and didn't miss on the third try.
St. Louis added another goal midway through the third period that ended up being the game-winner. Stamkos flipped the puck high in the air out in front of St. Louis, and he and Steve Downie
completed a perfect 2-on-1 to put Tampa Bay ahead 5-3.
It was the 10th goal of this postseason for St. Louis, which put him alone atop the League leaderboard -- until Krejci tied him with his 10th less than three minutes later.
"He's the heart and soul of our team," Stamkos said of St. Louis. "He and Vinny are our leaders. You see how hard Marty works during the game. You guys get to see that but you don't see what happens in the room. He's the first guy to step up and get the guys going. He's obviously been through every type of experience and every single type of championship you could win, he's been there. He's won individual awards. He's won the Stanley Cup and he's always been a big part. He knows what to do and how to react in those situations. And he stepped up before the game and said a few words, and just the respect he has from every single guy on the team. Coming from him, we take that to heart."
Stamkos added the third extra-man goal for Tampa Bay just 34 seconds into the third period. He ripped a one-timer from the lower left circle past Thomas and into a net that included the curled-up body of St. Louis, who had been knocked into it just as Stamkos was about to wind up.
The Lightning were 2-for-18 on the power play in the first five games of this series, but scoring on three consecutive chances gave them a lead they wouldn't relinquish -- despite Krejci's best efforts. He had two goals in the third period, each time cutting the margin to one goal, but the Bruins were unable to get the equalizer despite spending most of the game's final minutes buzzing the Tampa Bay net.
Boston's top line combined for 4 goals and 7 points in this game. Milan Lucic
had his third goal of the postseason and an assist, and Nathan Horton
added a pair of assists.
"Right now, it's tough," Krejci said. "It was a tough loss, obviously. But, that is why you work all season to get home-ice advantage and now we have it for Game 7, in our building, in front of our fans. It's going to be exciting. You're still one win away from Stanley Cup Final."
Added Boston coach Claude Julien: ""They were very good tonight. They needed to be big for us, and they were. That's certainly something you can build on heading home. If those guys play like that again, you'd like our chances."
Boucher went back to Dwayne Roloson
in goal after Mike Smith started Game 5, and the 41-year-old veteran continued his unbeaten run in elimination contests. Roloson allowed 4 goals on 20 shots -- two more than he's ever allowed in a game in which his team could be eliminated – and didn't look nearly as sharp as he had earlier in the series.
Still, he's now 7-0 in those instances in his career, including 4-for-4 this year.
"They got a bunch, but it doesn't matter," Roloson said. "I don't care if we win 21-20."